You’ve probably heard about the movement to reduce the use of plastic straws, which can’t be recycled and end up in landfills and in the environment. As BPR’s Helen Chickering reports, local environmental groups are on a mission to expand that campaign here in Western North Carolina.

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

This Friday morning, those with outstanding misdemeanor charges and traffic citations in Buncombe County can get their cases resolved.  'Amnesty Day’ at the Buncombe County courthouse  will be held from 9 a.m. to noon.  No one will be arrested at the courthouse if they show up for amnesty. 

Cass Herrington


Recent high profile shootings, like the ones that roiled Louisville and Pittsburgh last year, are forcing religious and racial minority communities to evaluate how they keep their people safe. It’s confounded by another stark trend -- a rise in hate crimes -- both in North Carolina and nationally.

Lilly Knoepp

  Freezing temperatures did not deter thousands from taking part in Sunday’s Women’s March in Asheville.  BPR followed a women’s empowerment club from Western Carolina University as they experienced their first protest. As  the Queens of WCU walked up the sidewalk chants of, “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible,” echoed in downtown Asheville.                     


Erica McCurdy, is a junior and the President of Queens of WCU. The club was founded at the beginning of the school year and is one of the only women’s club on campus, says McCurdy.

Lilly Knoepp

 Freezing temperatures did not deter thousands from taking part in Sunday’s Women’s March in Asheville.  BPR followed a women’s empowerment club from Western Carolina University as they experienced their first protest. As  the Queens of WCU walked up the sidewalk chants of, “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible,” echoed in downtown Asheville.                     


Lilly Knoepp

 Freezing temperatures did not deter thousands from taking part in Sunday’s Women’s March in Asheville.  BPR followed a women’s empowerment club from Western Carolina University as they experienced their first protest. As  the Queens of WCU walked up the sidewalk chants of, “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible,” echoed in downtown Asheville.                     


Bren Photography

Write about what you know about. It’s a time-tested path countless writers have traveled to bestselling books and films. So when Rachael Sparks took her first turn at genre fiction, her subject was obvious.

“There was a story that came out that, by 2050, 10 million people would die from resistant infections,” Sparks said. “It just gave me a lot of fertile ground to think about what it would be like in that world, to be a survivor in that world.”

Waynesville To Incentivize Affordable Housing

Jan 21, 2019
A Shot Above of WNC/Allen Newland photo

The affordable housing crisis may be Western North Carolina’s most pressing problem.  One Haywood County town is taking concrete steps towards a solution.

Lilly Knoepp

 Celebrations of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King echo across the nation today.

Macon Country has celebrated with a service including chruches from across the county for more than 25 years .

“Now is the time to lift our Nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” says Reverend Mozart Moliere.

Moliere is the pastor at Burgess Chapel in Franklin. His rendition of Dr. King’s “ I Have a Dream” speech brought the audience to their feet at First United Methodist Church.

Lilly Knoepp

Below freezing temperature didn't stop supporters of the Women's March from coming out on Sunday in Asheville. Reports of anti-Semitism  and racism caused schisms and cancellations at marches around the country on Saturday. However, marchers in Asheville say that they feel like the current women's movement is still moving the country forward.

Another move being caused by the partial shutdown of the federal government is the early delivery of SNAP benefits – formerly known as food stamps.  Recipients of SNAP will be getting their February monthly benefits earlier than normal because of the shutdown.  That has Western North Carolina’s major food bank worried.

Lilly Knoepp

  One impact of the partial federal government shutdown has been the lack of federal grant dollars going to nonprofits around the country. Here’s a look at one in our region - a domestic violence shelter in Franklin.


In 2018, the nonprofit Asheville Greenworks kept more than 161,000 pounds of hard to recycle materials out of the landfills in Western North Carolina.  During free events held throughout the year in Buncombe County,  volunteers collected everything from televisions to empty toothpaste tubes.  The organization is kicking off it's first  Hard 2 Recycle event of 2019, on Saturday, January 19th in West Asheville. 

Courtesy of the artists

NOTE: This is the second of two stories previewing the 2019 Asheville Fringe Festival.

Vanessa Owen and Gavin Stewart met on the dance floor seven years ago and have danced together and separately ever since. In crafting their new collaboration, they wanted to comment on the country’s immigration debate.

The new work is called “Vessel,” and Owen dances it alone.

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

North Carolina attorney general Josh Stein will give his blessing to the proposed sale of Mission Health to HCA.  That means Western North Carolina's major health system will go from a non-profit to a for-profit in the coming months.  But before he gave his approval, Stein announced several changes to the proposed sale contract between the two sides after hearing from concerned community members and groups.  Stein made the announcement Wednesday afternoon in Asheville.

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

The partial shutdown of the federal government includes the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.  Among the agency’s many jobs is approving labels for beer that is bottled and canned.  Delays in that process will force brewers to hold back on new releases.

Making and drinking beer is big business in Asheville and Western North Carolina.  Disruptions to new releases will be felt – not just at breweries, but also in their very unique supply chain.  

Courtesy of the Artist

NOTE: This is one of two preview stories BPR is producing in advance of the Asheville Fringe Festival.

Think of the theater, dance and music familiar to most people. You won’t experience any of that during the Asheville Fringe Festival, home to the experimental and adventurous.

Those adjectives certainly describe the three locally made shows in this preview. The first comes from Judy Calabrese, mother of three, whose one-woman show recounts three decades of relationships with women.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Democratic Party says it spent over $16 million during the past two-year election cycle — millions more than its Republican counterpart — on the way to picking up more General Assembly and statewide court seats.


Buncombe County’s living wage is now nearly double the minimum wage.  That’s according to one local group that makes such calculations, which reports some familiar reasons are creating that gap.

Lilly Knoepp

  As the federal government remains partially shutdown for a third week, volunteers and nonprofits are stepping up to keep parks clean.


You’ve probably seen a Friends of the Smokies license plate on the back of a car. Funds from those plates help make up the $1.5 million the organization gives to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park each year.  But sometimes the need goes beyond those regular funds.



A few weeks ago, we introduced you to biologist Rebecca Helm who moved to Asheville to study jellyfish.  While working on the piece, BPR’s Helen Chickering connected with  another marine pioneer  -  who brought sharks  and marine science to Hendersonville. 


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is the next co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, a partnership between the federal government and 13 states designed to help the region's economy.

Cooper's elevation during 2019 — announced Wednesday — marks the first time in more than 40 years that North Carolina's governor has held the co-chair's role. The commission is an economic development agency that focuses on over 400 counties from Mississippi to New York, of which almost 30 are in North Carolina.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina General Assembly opened a new two-year session Wednesday with Republicans still in charge but acknowledging Gov. Roy Cooper and other Democrats now have more pull thanks to their November election gains.

The House and Senate gaveled in at midday for one-day ceremonial and organizational meetings. Lawmakers will return in three weeks to begin the session in earnest.

Courtesy of Tellico

Anya Hinkle moved from southern Virginia to Asheville in 2006 for the bluegrass music scene. She says she absorbed the soul of a bluegrass artist from the scene, of all places, in Japan.

“People are really comfortable with a lot of silence, what I would consider awkward silence,” said Hinkle, whose husband is from Japan. They and their daughter visit Japan for a month or two every year.

President Trump is addressing the nation about border security tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 8). Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer will give a joint response immediately following. The government is partially shut down, with Trump in a stalemate with Democrats over funding for a wall along the southern border. Watch his remarks live.  The president's speech is expected to start around 9 p.m.

Lilly Knoepp

 The partial shutdown of the federal government is in to its third week. BPR headed out past the Great Smoky Mountain National Park on the edge of Macon Country to see what effects, if any, the shutdown is having on the area.


Standing Indian Campground is in the Nantahala National Forest. The campground is always closed this time of year but people are still able to access the trails within the forest.  So the area still has plenty of visitors. Right now downed limbs and trees litter the roads and trails at Standing Indian.

Former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene plead guilty last week to charges leveled against her in three separate indictments that were handed down last year.  Her plea mean all four former county employees who were charged by federal prosecutors last year have plead guilty - Greene, her son Michael, and former assistant county managers Jon Creighton and Mandy Stone.  But that doesn't mean the corruption investigation that shook county government to the core is done.  Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Jennifer Bowman broke many stories as the investigation unfolded.  She joined BPR's Matt Bush for an update on the latest news regarding the Greene scandal.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The first half of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's term was confrontational even before it began, as Republican legislators rammed through laws swiping away some of his powers even before he got sworn in. He sued over those laws, issued a record number of vetoes — most of them overridden — and exchanged sharp rejoinders with the GOP.

Court documents filed Thursday morning show that former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene will plead guilty, ending a corruption and fraud scandal in county government that stretched back more than a decade.  The filing comes a day after the Buncombe County board of commissioners reached a settlement agreement in its lawsuit against Greene, and a day after a judge accepted a plea deal with a former assistant county manager who was charged alongside Greene. 

Thanks to everyone who made 2018 a great year for Blue Ridge Public Radio. It was a year of continued growth and expansion of our service on BPR Classic and BPR News for WNC, thanks to the support of contributing listeners and business sponsors. We couldn't be more grateful.